(Reuters) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi suggested on Thursday he was considering pardoning journalists of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television station jailed in his country for nearly a year on charges of aiding a “terrorist organisation”.
Human rights groups and Western governments have condemned the trial of the journalists and the United Nations questioned Egypt’s judicial independence. The affair has contributed to tensions between Egypt and Qatar.
The three Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced in June to between seven and 10 years in jail on charges including spreading lies to help a “terrorist organisation”, an allusion to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
“Let us say that this matter is being discussed to solve the issue,” Sisi said in an interview with France 24 when asked if he could pardon the journalists.
Asked if a decision might be made soon, he said: “If we find this appropriate for the national security of Egypt, we will do it.”
The family of one of the journalists, Australian Peter Greste, on Friday greeted the news cautiously.
“We’re always pleased and we’re always hopeful this kind of turn of events would take place, however we have had rumours either explicit or implied of this kind before,” Greste’s father, Juris Greste, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“We have built up hope but in fact it hasn’t led anywhere.”